Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith was a beloved basketball player at a university in the city where Jake had his bone marrow transplant. I was aware of him, for sure, but I could not bring myself to read his story until last night. In January 2016, while Jake was in remission awaiting his BMT, Andrew died. While playing pro basketball in Lithuania, Andrew developed a lump near his collarbone. He tried to ignore it, but soon he became short of breath. Mom, I’m really short of breath. I haven’t been able to walk to the cafeteria to eat for two days… The Smith’s and we both thought pneumonia – certainly not cancer. The doctors in Lithuania cut open the lump, but did not have the capability to figure out what was wrong. They quickly returned to the states, eventually to the same floor of the same hospital where Jake would be a few months later. Andrew ‘ s wife called the lump a blessing in disguise in her blog. They were led to the real diagnosis because of it. The body always, eventually tells you there is something wrong. Sometimes the signs and symptoms aren’t obviously the answer, but a clue, perhaps, to the mystery that lies within. Andrew ‘ s led to an x ray that revealed a large mass in his chest, non Hodgkins lymphoma.  Normally this would be a relief- a 90% cure rate, but like Jake, there were other factors that complicated his case. His was a rare type that usually occurred in children with a 50% cure rate. They went through rounds of chemotherapy and months in the hospital. Andrew eventually went back to work. Three days later, he collapsed in cardiac arrest. He had no pulse for 22 minutes. He miraculously recovered, fully. The Smith’s felt strongly and prayerfully that there was a reason Andrew had survived everything he had survived. It wasn’t his time. God had big plans for him. We have heard the same thing from so many people. This wasn’t happening for nothing…  Soon Andrew came to realize he would need a bone marrow transplant. He became involved in Be the Match. This was the same group of people who generously traveled to Jake’s college and our hometown for our registry drive. While Andrew was dying, they came to help us. They had to be heartbroken for him, but needed to push forward for the people who would need them too. There is about a 1 in 400 chance of being a match. Andrew found his match pretty quickly. About 6 months before Jake’s transplant, Andrew was there in the same unit with the same staff that took such good care of us. There was a picture of him on the same exercise bike that Jake had ridden. Andrew was released from the hospital, but within 3 days, they knew something was wrong. He was readmitted. The blood tests revealed his body was producing cells, but immature cells, called blasts also known as leukemia.  This is what Jake’s body had done back in December. The hospital medical technologists were likely checking Andrew’s and Jake’s blood at around the same time. I may have passed Andrew’s wife in the hospital, oblivious that they were there too. But for Andrew, this was the end. The transplant was unsuccessful. He died a few weeks later. In May, when Jake was released from the hospital, Sam Smith was facing their anniversary alone. She lives in the house they bought which isn’t far from our city apartment.  No one knows why some transplants fail. Even though over 200 diseases can be cured by a BMT, they are only performed when there is no other choice. That’s why we go into it with hope. I ignored the risks and possible complications. I didn’t allow myself to read about Andrew. Thankfully only people who knew about success stories shared with me. There are many happy, healthy people who live normal lives after a BMT. Right now, I want to honor those who didn’t. You can still register at www.bethematch.org in honor of Andrew and Jake.

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